Ready to Research: The Newly Processed Boston Gay Men’s Chorus Records and the Frieda Garcia Papers

Introducing the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus records finding aid
By Dominique Medal

A group of men in tuxedos and dress clothes stand informally smiling and chatting. Two men in the center pose for the camera hugging and making kiss faces.
Boston Gay Men’s Chorus members talking pre-performance, 1990.

Records of the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, who have been singing in Boston and beyond for more than 40 years, have been processed and are open for research in the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections. A guide to the collection is available and Series 2 doubles as a chronology of the Chorus’ performances, special appearances, and international tours since its founding in 1982.

The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus was part of a wave of gay choruses established in the wake of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus national tour in 1981. Since then, the Boston Chorus has grown to more than 200 singing members and has toured Europe, the Middle East, and South Africa. It is one of the largest community-based choral groups in New England.

The collection documents the Chorus’ live performances through audio and video recordings, photographs, concert programs, posters and marketing materials, and planning and logistics files. Also included are studio recordings and materials pertaining to the Chorus’ membership in the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses, which hosts the triennial GALA Festival for LGBTQ choruses. The collection also documents the Chorus’ advocacy work, internal administration, and fundraising efforts.

A selection of photographs and promotional materials have already been digitized and uploaded to the Digital Repository Service.

Introducing the Frieda Garcia papers finding aid
By Irene Gates

Black and white image of a smiling woman sitting behind a desk
Frieda Garcia, undated

Since starting as Processing Archivist at Northeastern University earlier this year, I’ve been lucky enough to work on the papers of Frieda Garcia, a beloved Boston-based community leader and activist. Garcia received her B.A. from The New School, where I previously worked, a coincidence that made processing her collection a welcome bridge between my past and present positions.

Throughout her career, Garcia advocated for Hispanic and Black communities in Boston, bilingual education, women’s rights, and multicultural media. Her papers, which she donated in 2015, document her work on these themes with community organizations La Alianza Hispana, United South End Settlements (USES), and the Roxbury Multi-Service Center. It also covers her service on several mayoral commissions and boards of organizations such as The Boston Foundation and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and other initiatives and conferences in which she participated. Annual reports to the USES Board of Directors, reports documenting Boston’s South End and Roxbury neighborhoods, and correspondence with individuals across the city are examples of materials in the collection.

To learn more about Frieda Garcia’s papers, explore the finding aid, as well as several born-digital files and digitized analog content from the collection, available in the Digital Repository Service.

Boston Globe Archival Advisory: Highlighting the Dairy Festival

This blog post is the first in a series by members of the Northeastern University Library’s Digital Production Services and Archives and Special Collections teams sharing their favorite images and their role in the Boston Globe Library Collection digitization project.

My name is Kim Kennedy and I’m the Digital Production Librarian in the Northeastern University Library. In our recent push to digitize Boston photographs from the Boston Globe Library photo morgue, I coordinated the work with our vendor Picturae. In four months, they digitized 59 boxes of material. I developed a workflow to perform quality control checks on the digitized items and helped prepare them for upload to our Digital Repository. Most of these images are limited to the Northeastern community while we determine the rights status of the photographs, but a subset has been reviewed and is available to the public.

Some of my favorite images are of the Boston Common Dairy Festival, an annual event in which cows returned to the Boston Common (in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Common was used as a cow pasture by colonists).

Black and white image of three children posing next to a fake cow with a sign that says Milk Products
Roy Magnussen, Greg Gannon, and David Bruno pose with the Dutch Cow, a paper mache cow made by a third-grade class in Raynham, June 6, 1973. Photo by Ed Farrand, Boston Globe Library Collection
Black and white image of two girls feeding hay to a cow
Sandra Lee Nickerson and Vicky Lynn Nickerson of Rockland feed hay to a cow at the 15th annual Dairy Festival on May 30, 1970. Photo by Charles Carey, Boston Globe Library Collection
Black and white image of a girl looking at a bull
The Dairy Festival on June 5, 1967. Photo by Joe Dennehy, Boston Globe Library Collection

Here are some resources to learn more about the Boston Common Dairy Festival:

Boston’s Uncommon Park; Common and Garden Provide Togetherness in 75-Acre Refuge, September 27, 1964, New York Times

An Uncommon Common, August 28. 1994, Boston Globe

The Singing Cowsills to Sing Out for “Cowes” During Boston Common Dairy Festival, June 1969, Vermont Farm Bureau News

Scan It Right: Starting Your Own Digitization Project

Whether you are digitizing old family photos or creating a paperless record-keeping system, reformatting analog materials can be a lot of work! Here are some suggestions for what to think about when starting a project.

Documents, Photographs, Flat Art, Slides, and Negatives

Two unidentified women and one man standing in front of a computer.
Computer training course sponsored by New England
Telephone and Telegraph Company. https://repository.library.northeastern.edu/files/neu:126895

Choosing a Scanner
A paper-based document, such as a report, on normal paper can go through a sheetfed scanner.

Photographs, artwork, or material on old or delicate paper should go on a flatbed scanner.

Slides and negatives can go on specialized scanners or on multipurpose scanners.

While all of these material types can be scanned in a home or office, if you are dealing with many items, it can be more efficient to send them to a vendor.

File Type
TIFF is one of the standard file types for scanned images and an excellent choice for saving high-quality images long-term. If you would like to read more about standards for digitization, check out the FADGI Technical Guidelines for Digitizing Cultural Heritage Materials. If you need smaller files, you can use Photoshop to save TIFF images as JPEG files. The Northeastern community has free access to the Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes Photoshop and Acrobat.

PDF is a good file type for documents. Some scanners will let you save automatically to PDF. You could also save the document pages as TIFF files, then use Adobe Acrobat to combine the files into a PDF.

File Naming
Give your files unique and descriptive names and avoid spaces in the names — use underscores, dashes, or camel-case instead. Think about how the file names will sort in Finder or Windows Explorer. Some examples:

  • Faculty_Report_1970_01.pdf
  • ChemBuilding001.tif, ChemBuilding002.tif, etc.
Paul Mahan from the Boys' Clubs of Boston using an enlarger at a photographic laboratory
Paul Mahan from the Boys’ Clubs of Boston
using an enlarger at a photographic laboratory. https://repository.library.northeastern.edu/files/neu:212609

Resolution is how many pixels the scanner captures per inch of the original material. This is usually expressed in ppi (pixels per inch) or dpi (dots per inch). A higher dpi will capture more detail but will result in a larger file size.

Based on the FADGI guidelines mentioned above, for text-based materials like journal articles or reports, 300 dpi is sufficient for most uses. For photographs and more image-heavy material, use 400 dpi. For slides or negatives, use around 3000 dpi.

Black and White, Grayscale, or Color
You can base this on the material you are scanning. If the material is entirely black and white or grayscale, then you can scan in black and white or grayscale. If the item has color that you want to capture, then scan in color.

Brightness, Contrast, and Cropping
Most scanners will allow you to adjust brightness and contrast settings. If you are scanning documents, adjust until the text appears solid (not choppy but not too dark or blown out). For images, adjust until the brightness and contrast look true to the original.

Text Searchability
If you are creating a PDF, in most cases it should be text searchable for accessibility. To do this, you need to run OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on the document. For members of the Northeastern community, this is available in Adobe Acrobat.

Audiovisual Material

If you want to reformat A/V material (like VHS and audiocassette tapes) yourself, the following webinars from Community Archiving Workshop provide some guidance on the type of equipment to purchase.

However, it is often easiest to work with a vendor for A/V transfers. These materials can suffer from degradation that makes them challenging to capture. The Association of Moving Image Archivists has a directory of vendors.

In addition, the following guides from the National Archives and Records Administration can help you identify formats in your possession before you talk with a vendor. The first focuses on audio formats, like cassette tapes, and the second focuses on video formats, like VHS tapes.


For the files you create, make sure you save multiple copies in different geographic locations. For example, you might save one copy on your computer; another in a cloud-based location, like Backblaze or Google Drive; and then the final copy on an external hard drive.

You can also share files with friends and family through shared folders on Google Drive. For A/V materials, you can post unlisted videos on YouTube, so folks can only view them if they have a link.

Have any questions? Feel free to contact the librarians in Digital Productions Service at Library-DPS@northeastern.edu.

Katz Tapes Provide Valuable Resource on History of Music Industry

This blog post was written by Sean Plaistowe and edited by Molly Brown and Giordana Mecagni for clarity.

Larry Katz is a music journalist who spent a long career working at Boston-area newspapers and magazines. While collecting information for upcoming articles, it became his practice to record the interviews with musicians and artists and put them aside in case they proved useful in the future. Over time, he amassed a collection of over 1,000 of these interviews, with artists as diverse as Eartha Kitt, Carly Simon, D.J. Fontana (the drummer for Elvis), Aerosmith, David Bowie, Ornette Coleman, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley, James Brown, Miles Davis, and Elmore Leonard, as well as actors including Ted Danson, Mel Brooks, and Loretta Devine.

In 2020, Larry donated his collection to the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections (NUASC).

A collage of various musicians and artists. At the center is a cassette tape that is labeled "The Katz Tapes"

These interviews create a fascinating resource that provides insight into the music and arts industry across a wide variety of genres and eras. In them, you can catch some novel and intimate moments of music history. On one tape, you’ll hear Weird Al Yankovic discussing the difficulties of obtaining permission to parody Eminem’s music. Other tapes with artists like Nina Simone or Aimee Mann discuss musical influences or even the challenges and biases of navigating the recording industry. These interviews contain countless quiet moments as well, such as Prince discussing his preference for his home in Minneapolis over either coast, as well as his favorite movies of the year. The quiet clicking of teacups connecting with saucers while Eartha Kitt discusses her career provides a welcome feeling of connection and belonging that can feel rare and precious in researching these figures or music journalism more generally.

Black and white image of a man with curly dark hair and a collared shirt.
Larry Katz. Photo courtesy of The Katz Tapes website.

After graduating from the Manhattan School of Music in 1975, Larry Katz worked as a bass player before starting his journalism career at Boston’s Real Paper in 1980. In 1981, Larry worked as a freelance music writer at the Boston Globe and Boston Phoenix before being hired at the Boston Herald as a features writer, where he covered a wide variety of arts and lifestyle beats before settling into a role as a music critic and columnist. In 2006, he became the Herald’s Arts Editor and in 2008, he took over the features department, a role he had until 2011.

In 2013, Larry revisited his tape collection. Re-listening to the interviews sparked memories of the circumstances and contexts that these recordings were made in, information he felt compelled to share. He started a blog, The Katz Tapes, where he began to write reflections on artists and their interviews, often taking into account events that had transpired since the original conversations. Along with these reflections, Larry provided a transcription of the recorded interviews which he often interspersed with links to notable performances or songs related to the artists. Larry also donated the contents of this blog to the NUASC.

Making this collection usable and accessible to the public has involved many hands and collaborations, both internal and external. First, the tapes were digitized by George Blood LP, with funding generously provided by the Library of the Commonwealth program run by the Boston Public Library. Once the digitized tapes were safely back in the hands of the NUASC collections staff, the files were then handed to the Digital Production Services department to do the painstaking work of processing and cataloging the collection. They split audio files that contained multiple interviews, combined interviews that were on multiple tapes edited out white space, and created catalog records.

Making the blog content available was another challenge. Despite already being digital, moving content from Larry’s independent site to Northeastern hosting proved difficult. Initially, I was hopeful that we could use a handy WordPress feature that would allow for the whole cloth export of his blog. No such luck. Instead, I found some scripts which allowed me to scrape the many unique images which Larry had included with each post. The blog also linked to a lot of songs and performances hosted on YouTube, but unfortunately, due to the vagaries of time and copyright law, many of these videos were removed. When possible, I attempted to restore links to sanctioned videos. As an added feature, I created a playlist that includes many of the songs referenced in these posts.

Now that the collection has been cataloged and the blog has been ingested, we welcome anyone to search for their favorite artist, listen to their interview, read some of the reminiscences and insights form Larry about the artist and the interview, and listen to a Spotify playlist of some of the artists Larry interviews at thekatztapes.library.northeastern.edu.

In addition to the Larry Katz collection, researchers and enthusiasts of the arts in Boston may be interested in the Real Paper records and the Boston Phoenix records, both available at the NUASC.